Posted: March 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

Greetings from chilly, snowy, exhilarating Chicago!

I am here in the city of my birth and staying with friends in Ukrainian Village, the neighborhood of my youth. I spent the weekend at the enormous Associated Writers’ Program (AWP) Conference which hosted 10,000 writers! But despite the overwhelming plethora of panels, readings and hobnobbing, the personal highlight for was as a panelist for the following seminar:

“A Call to Arms, Imagining a Better World: Celebrating the Long Tradition of Chicago Activist Writers” (Gary Johnson, Lisa Schlesinger, Kathy Kelly, Haki Madhubuti, Irene Zabytko). Writers from Jane Addams to Lorraine Hansberry, Richard Wright to Studs Terkel and Gwendolyn Brooks share the Chicago tradition of rising to national and even international prominence. Today’s Chicago activist writers continue to frame the troublesome issues of the day, sometimes risking everything with persistent questioning of the status quo. This lively panel will read work samples and discuss strategies for passing the torch of activism to the next generation of writers.

It was an honor to be invited by the moderator Gary Johnson Associate Chair, Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College, Chicago, whose thought provoking and provocative questions provided a tremendous opportunity for each of the panelists to discuss and share our reasons and insights behind our commitment for the many causes we espoused which ranged from Palestinian-Israeli friendship, African-American struggles, global anti-war activism, and for my part, Chornobyl. It was thrilling and enlightening to share the panel with such dedicated, heroic, and noble writers and humanists and I encourage everyone to check out their books and websites.

My participation on this panel included a short reading from my novel about Chornobyl, THE SKY UNWASHED and highlighting the continuous threat of the fallout from the devastated Chornobyl nuclear reactor. I also mentioned the reasons why LIFE IN THE DEAD ZONE our documentary-in-progress, is needed to remind the world that Chornobyl is still an ever-present danger.

I wish we had a photo of this amazing session! It seems that writers are so much into words that we sometimes forget the visual component of things. At any rate, if there is an mp3 version I will post the link on our website   I hope the tape will also include the wonderful rendition of the Occupy Movement’s MIC CHECK shout-out specifically meant for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel that was led by Columbia student Wyl Villacres. It was a rousing way to end the seminar!

Another panel I attended (but as an audience member) was called “Fallout & Facts: Creative Nonfiction in the Nuclear Age” which featured several non-fiction writers highlighting their works on dealing with nuclear related issues. The moderator was Anna Leahy who along with Doug Dechow, writes the fascinating blog about nuclear topics, LOFTY AMBITIONS  which also includes posts by the other participants on her panel.

More blogging yet to come from Chicago, and I promise to include a photo next time! Peace, Irene

© 2012 by Wheat Street Productions, Inc.





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